Rich & Reckless: To Have It All, They'll Go Too Far.
Whether it's a dashing cat burglar or a team of low-life bank robbers, thieves have the reputation as being a compelling blend of reckless rebels and meticulous planners. Some thieves get away scot-free, but most heists are eventually foiled by greed, a moment of carelessness or just plain stupidity. Mostly stupidity.
The media is a fickle monster; one day you're beloved, the next, you're despised. The stick-up artists behind the Bank of America robbery were first hailed as criminal geniuses. Ambushing two Brink's security guards as they delivered money to a currency exchange center, the crooks fled with $1.6 million and were initially praised for the timing and ingenuity it took to strike when the loot was the least secure. But the admiration quickly turned to derision once it was revealed that the rock-dumb robbers took off their ski masks while still in sight of security cameras. Informants quickly fingered the team. All four thieves were arrested, with the mastermind, Ralph Guarino, agreeing to rat out the DeCavalcante crime family in order to avoid a harsher sentence.
Ah, the 50s! A simpler time of Ozzie and Harriet normalcy, when America existed in a happy haze of post-war innocence. Except, of course, for the occasional million-dollar heist, double-dealing backstabbing and machine gun assaults.
Dubbed "the Crime of the Century," this audacious heist took two years of planning, and practice runs before eight men, wearing pea coats and Halloween masks (like Captain Marvel, pictured left), stormed into a Brinks Armored Car depot in Boston and made off with nearly three million dollars in cash, coins, checks and money orders. But crooks don't go into that field because of their impulse control. Angered by what they felt to be greedy demands for a larger share of the loot, several of his confederates ordered the killing of Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe, the plan's mastermind. Despite being shot multiples times with a submachine gun, O'Keefe survived and snitched on his accomplices. Though every member of his gang was tried and convicted, more than 2.5 million in cash remains missing.
Any great heist becomes that much greater once it's been memorialized by Martin Scorsese. As seen in "Goodfellas," this brazen mob caper was, at the time, the largest cash robbery ever committed on American soil. Using an insider, the robbers not only knew that cargo containing roughly six million dollars in cash was arriving at the JFK airport on Lufthansa Airlines, but also how to get into the cargo area and how many men would be working that day. Brandishing automatic weapons and ski masks, the heist took only 64 minutes to pull off and none of the airport workers were killed. Unfortunately, those involved with crime are unable to make the same claim: thirteen people connected to the heist were killed or disappeared in the months following the robbery. But despite (or perhaps because of) the subsequent bloodbath, only one person was convicted for the theft, and the Lufthansa loot has never been recovered.
It's not what you know, it's who you know. But if what you know includes a detailed floor plan of the Dunbar Armored warehouse, how to avoid security cameras and where the cash is stored, well, that probably works well enough. Allen Pace, using his knowledge as Dunbar's regional safety inspector, organized a gang of goons to subdue the facility's guards, disable the security recordings and make off with nearly 19 million dollars in only 34 minutes. The inside man and his team managed to lay low for a few years before authorities caught up to them, thanks, of course, to their lavish spending. Six men were convicted and sentenced to jail for their part in the largest cash robbery in the United States, more than $10 million of which is still unaccounted for.
It's fitting that, in the home of the most acclaimed film festival in the world, there would be an element of make-believe in the biggest jewelry heist in history. The Carlton Hotel in Cannes houses an exclusive jewelry store, and in August, 1994 the luxurious calm was broken as machine gun-wielding thieves burst into the store as it was about to close. Firing their weapons into the air, they grabbed every pricey bauble and jewel they could see. The thieves took their loot and quickly melted into the darkened streets, leaving behind no clues. But one thing investigators were able to determine was that the large automatic weapons used by the considerate crooks were actually firing blanks. The jewels and the thieves remain at large.